One in six North Florida residents, including one out of four children, are what is known as "food insecure." That means they don't know when they will have their next meal.
The 28th Annual Empty Bowls Luncheon on Tuesday at the Osborn Center was an opportunity for more than 1,300 people to help make a difference in the lives of their neighbors who aren't able to provide enough food for themselves and their families.
The event is the major fundraiser of the year for the Second Harvest food bank, which was formed 33 years ago by Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida Inc. to distribute donated food to families in need.
More than 1,300 people purchased tickets for this year's event, a simple meal of soup provided by Chick-fil-A and bread. Each attendee selected a ceramic bowl made by a local child or senior citizen as a symbol of the challenges faced by those in the community who don't have enough food.
Lutheran Social Services President and CEO R. Wayne Rieley said Second Harvest distributed more than 20 million pounds of food last year through food pantries and social service agencies in North Florida.
This year, more than 24 million pounds of food will be distributed and by 2015, more than 40 million pounds will be disbursed by Second Harvest, he said.
Forty percent of the people who receive aid through area food banks are working families, said Bruce Ganger, Second Harvest executive director.
Other growing segments of the food bank's client base are single parents and senior citizens who often must choose between purchasing needed medications and buying food, he said.
"They need something to fill in the gaps," said Ganger.
Bank of America was the presenting sponsor for the event. Corporate Social Responsibility Volunteer Coordinator Melinda Zetrouer said this marks the fourth year Bank of America has sponsored the event. Bank employees donated more than 300 hours to the luncheon and many more hours over the past year sorting food at Second Harvest.
"We have a strong partnership. We had to turn away volunteers," she said.
Each ticket purchased for the luncheon represented 210 meals that will be provided in North Florida.
"You can't go wrong when you help feed families. It's the best gift you can give," said Ganger.
To learn more about Second Harvest, visit wenourishhope.org.
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